Maccabi Tel Aviv preps for PSG

After knocking out Olympiacos, TA team intends to place in Europa League.

Maccabi Tel Aviv Soccer (photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
Maccabi Tel Aviv Soccer
(photo credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv website)
After knocking out Olympiacos in the previous round, Maccabi Tel Aviv has no intention of settling for anything less than a place in the Europa League group stage.
Maccabi visits Paris Saint- Germain in the first leg of the competition’s playoffs on Thursday night and is confident it can claim a favorable result ahead of the return leg at Bloomfield Stadium next week.
With 11 new players on the squad, the latest signed just two days ago, it is no surprise Tel Aviv is taking time to gel.
However, Maccabi has shown some promising signs – most notably in the matches against Olympiacos – and manager Avi Nimni is optimistic his side will display further improvement in the French capital.
“Olympiacos was the favorite against us, and to be honest, PSG is also a better team. However, we believe in our players,” Nimni said. “We have got some injury problems, but we have a big enough squad to cope with the situation.
“The match against Olympiacos is history. We are the underdog again, but we are not here just to make up the numbers.
We are good enough to win this tie.”
Maccabi bolstered its defense on Tuesday, signing 30-yearold Savo Pavicevic from Greek side FC Kavala after the injury to its Brazilian defender Nivaldo, who damaged knee ligaments in the 3-2 Toto Cup defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv on Saturday.
Pavicevic could start after just one training session with the team, with Nimni and coach Yossi Mizrahi considering playing with three centerbacks.
The Montenegro international, who spent the 2008/09 season in Germany with FC Energie Cottbus, could be one of five defenders in Tel Aviv’s lineup, with Avi Strul, Klemi Saban and Yoaz Ziv all set to start.
Cameroonian midfielder Albert Baning returns from suspension, with Malian Djibril Sidibe to play alongside him in the center of the field.
“We are ready for this match,” said Sidibe, who will be hoping to make the most of his 10-years experience of playing in France.
Bosnian Haris Medunjanin, who has scored three goals in Maccabi’s four Europa League games so far, will play an influential role once more, with Barak Itzhaki to start on the flank and Eliran Atar to be the lone-striker, assuming Roberto Colautti doesn’t make a surprising recovery from injury.
PSG qualified for the Europa League despite finishing in 13th position in the French league last season. The club is coming off a win in the Coupe de France, having kicked off its Ligue 1 campaign with a 3-1 home win against AS Saint-Etienne last week before drawing 0-0 with Lille on Sunday.
Coach Antoine Kombouare has a star-studded squad at his disposal, which includes the likes of Claude Makelele, Ludovic Giuly and Mateja Kezman.
Contrary to reports, he plans to play his strongest team against Maccabi.
“The most important thing at the moment is to reach the group stage,” Kombouare said.
“I will start with my best players, but I do have one eye on our upcoming league match against Bordeaux. Beating Maccabi will be the best preparation for the Bordeaux encounter. I don’t think we are the clear favorites, but we fought to get here and it’s important we don’t squander this opportunity.”